Hoarding is a complicated, life-ruining disease – one that isn’t fixed with a round of medication and some Lysol. It costs people their loved ones and their social lives, but in the case of Kevin McCrary, it also cost him his home. This is the story of the hoarding son of a famed radio and TV personality. From a son of privilege to a person drowning in stuff: how did McCrary’s disorder spiral so out of control?
Kevin McCrary’s Small Apartment
McCrary doesn’t live in a large place, so clutter is a fact of life. Still, McCrary was drowning alive in his railroad-style, one-bedroom on New York’s East 65th Street. The floor was littered with old electrical appliances, stereos, books, games, TVs and stacked furniture. It’s lined floor-to-ceiling with stuff.
McCrary Was Born To Well-Off, Famous Parents
McCrary’s life started in a place of privilege. His father, Tex McCrary was a public relations specialist and TV/Radio personality who is largely credited with inventing the talk show genre. He hosted the first ever radio talk show alongside his wife Jinx Falkenburg, who happened to be the highest paid model in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. She holds a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.
McCrary’s childhood wasn’t normal. TV cameras filmed his birth. As an infant, he nabbed his first magazine cover in Look alongside his mother. This past is now hidden inside of McCrary’s apartment in stacks and stacks of junk.
He Spent His Early Life In A Massive 400-Acre Estate
McCrary’s life now resembles nothing of his youth. “This doesn’t resemble the lifestyle I was accustomed to in my earlier life,” he admitted to the New York Times. The unemployed hoarder didn’t grow up in a one-bedroom, $1,400 a month apartment in Manhattan. He spent his formative years with his brother John on a massive 400-acre estate in Long Island that was owned by a family friend. This friend was John “Jock” Hay Whitney, a wealthy investor and also the person from which McCrary got his middle name. His childhood may have seemed idyllic, but not everything is as shiny as it looks.
McCrary’s Parents Left Him And His Brother At The Estate
McCrary admitted that Greentree estate was “like Central Park.” It had a movie theater, a farm, and massive greenhouses. He would spend a great deal of his time riding Thoroughbred horses in the stables and meeting numerous celebrity guests, but it wasn’t all it was chalked up to be.
“They were full-time celebrities and part-time parents,” he told The New York Times. McCrary and his brother were left at the estate during the week while their parents lived and worked in Manhattan.
McCrary Struggled With Living Up To His Father’s Reputation
McCrary’s father Tex was a hard act to follow. He was a brilliant journalist. The Yale graduate was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon and the esteemed but infamous Skull and Bones. He went on to edit the New York Daily Mirror and even served in the Army Air Corps during World War II where he was one of the first Americans who entered Hiroshima after the atomic bombing and saw the intense damage. As a powerful publicist and political strategist, McCrary’s father helped convince Dwight D. Eisenhower to run for president and for John Hay Whitney to buy The New York Herald Tribune.
McCrary’s Mom Was A Broadway Beauty Who Helped Invent The Modern Talk Show
McCrary’s mother was just as glamorous and esteemed as his dad. Jinx was a Broadway star who later used her talent after transitioning into radio. Tex and Jinx, as his parents were known in their heyday of the 1950s, produced two radio shows, a five-day-a-week TV show, and a newspaper column. The guests on their radio show were the hippest people in New York society. That’s a lot for a little boy to live up to and McCrary started to struggle as his path differed from his parents’ massive success
McCrary Was A Disillusioned Activist And Drug-Dabbling Hippie
Unlike his dad, McCrary didn’t wind up at an Ivy League school. His parents “shipped” him off to Culver Military Academy in rural Indiana, but he hated it. He couldn’t be a war hero like his dad because he didn’t agree with the Vietnam War. This anti-war mentality would become a passion.
After Culver Military Academy, McCrary studied filmmaking at the University of Denver and moved to San Francisco to film antiwar rallies. This is when he started using psychedelic drugs. He fell deep into the hippie movement and started dabbling in psychedelics while studying yoga and traveling with his girlfriend. He never would find a lasting career.
McCrary Struggled To Find A Career (And Is Currently Unemployed)
McCrary didn’t really need a career until recent years because of his trust fund, but everyone needs a purpose. He already knew he hated the army and wasn’t going to pursue it like his father. After joining the hippie movement, McCrary was kind of aimless. He tried to film rallies but a career in filmmaking or documentary making never stuck. He tried to be a photographer, but that didn’t stick either. In a complete 180, McCrary tried to become an investment banker in the ’80s. Of course, that just didn’t suit his personality whatsoever and it was short-lived.
McCrary Moved Into His Rent-Controlled Manhattan Apartment 30 Years Ago
After moving around, McCrary finally settled in New York City. He moved into a rent-stabilized apartment in Manhattan that cost just $500 a month. Today, rent costs him $1,386, but he’s not sweating it. Though he remains unemployed, the rent is paid out by a family trust that his brother John controls. Unlike their time spent as children in their Long Island estate, John’s relationship with his brother is now strained (probably because of the hoarding and his status as unemployed, but that’s only speculation).
After moving into the apartment 30 years ago, it didn’t take long for McCrary’s hoarding habits to consume the apartment – the illness was just waiting for a trigger.
He Started Using The Apartment For Temporary Storage
McCrary doesn’t really consider himself a hoarder – he considers himself a collector. “My whole life, I’ve been a collector — whether it was stamps or coins, baseball cards or toy trains,” he told The New York Times. In a one bedroom apartment, even just a single collection can cause a lot of clutter, but a new business opportunity took up a whole lot more of McCrary’s living space than he could have anticipated. It was all supposed to be temporary. By the time the ’90s rolled around, his collections got out of control, and he started using the apartment for temporary storage as he brought in scrap metal and redeemed it for cash.
His Collecting Intensified Amidst The Sept. 11 Terrorist Attacks
When the terrorist attacks on September 11th brought down the World Trade Center, it was a trying and emotional time for all New Yorkers. As a born and bred New Yorker, McCrary felt particularly affected and volunteered at ground zero, collecting food and running aid stations for rescue workers. He also started documenting his time by saving things from the clean-up efforts and taking photos. He kept a piece of the ill-fated building so he would never forget. These pieces rest in a grave of absolute trash that’s stacked so high McCrary can barely walk inside of his apartment.
The Death Of McCrary’s Parents Pushed Him Over The Edge
September 11th definitely intensified his desire to collect and save, but what really pushed him over the age was the death of his parents. McCrary’s parents passed away within a week of each other in 2003, and things were never the same. His apartment collected more and more stuff until he was drowning.
“You know the old story: If you want to cook a frog in a pot, you turn up the heat slowly so he won’t jump out,” he told The New York Times in an interview. “Well, I never jumped out.”
McCrary Started A New Business That Involved Selling Collectibles
After his parents’ death, McCrary took up a new business. Collecting was always his passion, so he wanted to make it into a career. McCrary jumped into the world of running an online store amidst the surge of eBay-related businesses. He collected a ton of items online with the intention of flipping them for more cash, but it proved to be more difficult than he thought. McCrary found that the items he chose to collect didn’t actually sell. Instead, he continued collected more and more stuff hoping those would be the ones to finally make him a quick buck. “It was an extremely flawed business model,” he said.
McCrary’s Hoard Contains Numerous Relics Of His Past
McCrary’s hoard in his $1,400 Manhattan apartment is mostly what an average person would consider junk, despite his intentions of selling a large chunk of it. There’s as many TVs as a small Best Buy, old cans of food, toothpaste, liquor, and stacks upon stacks of old furniture, but not everything McCrary has in his piles of trash is actual garbage. Some of it is TV history. With parents that hold Hollywood stars, McCreary has autographed letters written to his father from important people like Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan. He has magazine issues beaming with the smiling faces of his parents and a photo of himself sitting with Bob Hope in his parent’s living room.
McCrary Started Sleeping On The Street Because His Apartment Was Too Cramped
Not many people choose to sleep on the street when they have a perfectly good apartment and a trust fund, but McCrary opted for homelessness over cleaning up his belongings. As his collection grew, his home became so packed that he couldn’t even open his door to go inside. Instead, he would enter his apartment by climbing four flights up a fire escape. Some days he wouldn’t enter at all barring a brief moment when he’d make the trek up the fire escape to feed his numerous cats through the window. He slept on the street.
The Apartment Became A Hazard And McCrary Was Injured By Trapped Items
McCrary’s apartment became a dubious hazard with every room, including the kitchen and the bathroom, filled to the brim. His cats would trapeze atop piles of stuff, and there was always the looming hazard that things would collapse and injure McCrary. At one point, he dislocated his knee after a row of items collapsed on top of him and trapped him underneath. He was unable to enter through the door. Had there been a fire, he’d never have escaped.
Sadly, the tragic level his hoarding escalated to a point where it no longer affected solely his own life (and the life of his cats). It affected his neighbors – and they were furious.
The Odor From McCrary’s Apartment Is So Strong It Caused Numerous Tenants To Leave
With all the food that was left around McCrary’s apartment and the hoard of cats that lived inside, it absolutely wreaked. The smell was so strong that it permeated outside of his walls into the neighboring apartments. Three tenants moved out of his building because of the smell alone.
“In the summer [the stench] brings tears to your eyes, literally,” said Jeffrey Weber, the building’s managing agent, who started the eviction process and urged McCrary to clean up or leave. If the smell wasn’t enough for apartment management to consider eviction, there’s also the fact that his dubious collection is a complete and total fire hazard. But McCrary was particularly difficult to evict.
Not Every Neighbor Minded McCrary’s Hoarding
Though most neighbors detested McCrary’s hoarding, some had a soft spot for his good nature. However, you can’t deny the filth. As neighbor Anahita Kopet told CBS, “It’s really filthy. There’s garbage bags underneath and the other day we saw little mice in that planter box, like 10 or 12 little mice, and it was just so gross.”
His other neighbor, Cheetah Girls author Deborah Gregory, insists it’s a miracle that she’s written anything because his distracting, disgusting van is parked outside her window (which is honestly, kind of harsh). The truth is, not everyone actually minded his presence, at least the people who didn’t have to smell it. One man insisted that the trust fund hoarder “doesn’t bother nobody, he just picks up garbage from the street.”
Apartment Management Tried To Evict McCrary Three Times
The apartment management where McCrary lived had been immeasurably understanding about his condition. After the smell deterred tenants and the state of the apartment was considered unsafe and a liability to other tenants, the management company tried to evict him three separate times. Each time, McCrary swore that he would clean up and get rid of his trash, but it didn’t happen.
“We enjoy eccentric people, and I think that’s what makes Manhattan unique,” said Weber. “But it’s unfortunate that his uniqueness is troubling other neighbors and is a fire hazard, and that’s the only reason why we’re doing what we have to do.”
McCrary Appeared In A 2011 Episode Of A&E’s Hoarders, Where He Tried To Turn His Life Around
A&E’s titular show Hoarders can really change people’s lives if they accept the help. The show regularly features people in the same position as McCrary, drowning in stuff to the point where they’ve isolated themselves from loved ones and face eviction. McCrary appeared on the show in 2011. After the team took away eight truckloads from the apartment, they barely made a dent. This was mostly because of McCrary’s micro-management. He slowed down the team by refusing to let them clean it out on their own. Eventually, the fact that he had to oversee the removal of every single item slowed production down to a halt.
Months After Appearing On Hoarders His Apartment Was A Mess Again
Hoarders didn’t really help McCrary too much. It was a temporary fix for a larger problem. All they really did was create walkways in the clutter so McCrary could at least go inside of his apartment. After the trucks left, he went right back to his old ways. Within months, it was back to the same state that it was before Hoarders had showed up in the first place. This time, apartment management was over it. They were serious about kicking him out for good – but they’d give him a rather enticing offer.
Management Bought Out McCrary’s Lease For $20,000
In effort to appease McCrary and convince him to leave without outright evicting him, building management offered him a $20,000 buyout agreement. He accepted. This meant that if he vacated by November 2013, his rent would have been excused and he’d snag the $20,000 in cash. McCrary did not move out by the deadline and management extended it. He missed the deadline again, and they extended it. According to the management, they’ve spent about $30,000 trying to get him to move.
Building Management Thinks McCrary Will Be A Problem For Future Landlords Wherever He Goes
Though building management was pretty sympathetic of McCrary’s mental illness, they did recognize the fact that he would probably cause a problem no matter where he moved because the stuff would come with him.
“Because of his — I’ll call it an illness — his apartment is now filled,” Weber said, hesitant to call it what it is: a mental illness. “He has a mental disease, and wherever he goes he will fill up that space.” McCrary accepted management’s offer to leave, but it turns out moving all that stuff is really difficult.
McCrary’s Apartment Was So Bad He Had To Hire Homeless People To Help Him Move
McCrary tried to move. When management offered him a final $12,000 buyout agreement, he made a sizable effort to get out. He called a moving company to help him transfer his collection of stuff to the eight storage units he rents in Queens and Yonkers. When they saw the state of the apartment, they declined the job.
Instead, McCrary hired a team – some of them are friends and some of them are local homeless people. They were paid next-to-nothing to help him carry all his trash down four flights.
One Of Them Quit In A Rage And Slashed His Vans’ Tires, Which Put The Whole Thing On Hold
McCrary was paying the people helping him a rather meager sum for the amount of work, so it’s not surprising that payment disputes arose. After one particularly explosive payment dispute, a worker quit, went downstairs, and slashed the tires on McCrary’s beat-up, old Ford. Because the tires were slashed, McCrary got a parking ticket (which is over a hundred dollars in New York City), and the moving operation was temporarily shut down. McCrary needed new tires immediately or the tickets would rack up, so he went all the way to Brooklyn to hunt down a used set.
His Van Is Also Filled To The Brim With Trash And Residents Can’t Stand It
McCrary has an old Ford van that he kept on the street outside of his apartment, moving it back and forth to comply with street cleaning (this is the van that got the terrible ticket). Like his home, it’s packed with junk that spills outside of it. Even the roof has a pile of his belongings that’s packed solid and covered with a tarp. He can barely squeeze behind the wheel to drive it and numerous residents have complained.
“I don’t know what’s in there,” one neighbor told The Post. “I avoid it like the plague.”
His Cat Escaped And Got Injured, Delaying His Move Out Even Further
McCrary’s problems moving out didn’t just stop at getting his tires slashed. One of his cats had a near-fatal injury that caused the trust fund hoarder to spend most of the night at an animal hospital praying for good news.
McCrary kept his apartment windows open during the move-out process, which is when one of his cats bolted outside. It got stuck in a crevice along the building’s exterior and McCrary had to call the fire department to get the cat down. The firefighters climbed up to the cat on a ladder, but once they grabbed it, the cat escaped and fell down five entire stories. Thankfully, it survived after a trip to the veterinarian.
McCrary Says The Process Of Trying To Move Is Agonizing
McCrary certainly wasn’t making it easy on himself to move. This time, he pulled the same stuff that he pulled on the Hoarders crew. He sat there and painstakingly scrutinized over every item while the workers waited around. He admitted that he was pretty wary of putting stuff into storage units because once a storage company evicted him and auctioned off his parents’ priceless memorabilia. As a collector, that’s an offense that’s unforgivable.
McCrary said the whole process was agonizing because he had to stop a decade of compulsive collecting in an instant to get the $12,000 buyout, but he couldn’t stop. He even used the moving van to pick up an old Dell computer and TV he saw in the trash.
McCrary’s Apartment Had Become A Spectacle For Neighbors
During the moving process, he attracted quite a few onlookers. Everyone from longtime residents to tourists renting Airbnb rooms in the building were bewildered at the sheer amount of stuff that was coming out of his apartment.
“For every two bags he takes out, he brings one back in,” said building superintendent Jim Markaj, the building superintendent. “He’s a good man but he’s giving the whole building problems. In the daytime, he throws it out, and at night he brings it back up.”
McCrary’s Home Was So Packed That He Didn’t Even Realize His Cat Had Kittens
McCrary has a deep connection with his cats, and over the course of the years, they’ve made his apartment wreak. He ended up getting rid of six them to appease apartment management but still had five. At least he thought he had five. Upon clearing out his stuff in the final effort to move, McCrary found a litter of four kittens, which he took along with his cats when he finally managed to leave.
“I’m married to my cats,” he told The New York Times. “They’re the only family I have left.”
McCrary Finally Made Enough Progress To Sleep Inside Of His Apartment
McCrary’s apartment was so packed that he couldn’t even open the front door. The most he could muster was getting an arm into his apartment to feed the cats through the window. But finally, McCrary made progress.
March 9, 2014 marked the first day in months (possibly even years) that McCrary could sleep inside his home, but his bedroom still wasn’t near glamorous. He made a makeshift loft just a couple of feet below the ceiling and could barely squeeze through the door to get inside. In the process of cleaning he found a ponytail he had cut off so long ago he can’t even remember when he had a pony tail.
McCrary Found Most Of His Meals In The Trash
McCrary considers himself a freegan. It’s safe to say that his kitchen was pretty much unusable because of all the junk that was shoved into it. Instead of cooking, he found most of his meals by looking through the trash. Local stores threw out packaged food after its sell-by date, so he dug through the dumpsters behind them and stored his food in various suitcases that he hid all over the block. Yes, his mess had started to take over the entire city street.
“I’m New York’s first freegan,” he told The New York Times. At least his meals are free?
McCrary’s Appearance On Hoarders Made Him A Celebrity Among Other Hoarders
McCrary’s appearance on Hoarders only enabled him because it allowed him to find other people who have and celebrate the same illness. Some of these people live on his very block. On a brief visit to the library, while the The York Times was documenting his life, he ran into a fellow hoarder who proudly showed off her used handbag. Her name was Dolores, and she was a local resident who pilfered the bag from the trash and defended McCrary’s disease.
“We come from a time when you just don’t throw anything out,” she said.
McCrary’s Lawyer Was Rooting For Him
According to McCrary’s lawyer, Susan Warnock, who had been navigating the looming eviction with her client, the trust fund pack rat is actually in a rare situation. Most hoarders don’t want to change and they certainly don’t want to move and get rid of all their stuff. But that wasn’t the case for McCrary who so badly wanted to follow the management’s wishes. He wanted to appease them so much that he even gave away some of his beloved cats.
“What’s unusual for a hoarder is that Kevin actually wants to leave,” said Warnock.
But could he actually turn it around?
McCrary Failed To Meet The $12,000 Deadline And The Super Intendant Showed Up To Change The Locks
McCrary had been given a strict and final deadline where apartment management offered him $12,000 to vacate the premises on a Friday. Friday came and went and the apartment was only 80 percent clean. Still, they felt sympathetic towards his mental illness and did admit to seeing progress. They gave him three extra days to have the place “broom-clean” before they changed the locks and shut him out. With the deadline looming, McCrary started to panic but in a remarkable test of strength, he actually pulled it off.
McCrary Met The Deadline – And No One Could Believe It (Even Himself)
McCrary spent the better part of four years trying to pick through the 30 years of stuff that accumulated in his apartment, but there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Just three weeks prior, McCrary’s apartment was packed floor-to-ceiling with junk and at the morning of the final (and graciously extended) deadline, it was empty.
“It’s good to be able to see the floor and the ceiling,” he told The New York Times. For the first time in years, you could navigate McCrary’s apartment with ease. Of course, he barely slept during the cleaning process, but the hard work was worth it.
Finally, McCrary’s Apartment Management Showed Up With The New York City Marshal To Evict Him For Good
McCrary finally cleaned up his act enough to leave. The hoarding had taken control of his life – and it looked like it was absolutely winning, but it didn’t. At least, it didn’t win this battle. Apartment management showed up after the extended three-day deadline with a New York City marshal to evict him from his Upper East Side apartment for good..
“I know you’re not going to break in, or trespass, or do anything foolish, right?” the Marshall sternly told McCrary as he was getting kicked to the curb. McCrary finally left.
McCrary’s Final Expenses Total Only Left Him $3
Though McCrary got a whopping $12,000 to move out of the apartment, it turned out his moving process took a whole lot of cash. Between hiring people to help him dig through his trash, the rented moving vans, and the new tires for his own van, that $12,000 didn’t go very far. On top of that, the trust fund pack rat has huge legal fees and the fees for all his storage units. At the end of the ordeal, he claimed that he’ll have less than $3.
“After expenses, I’ll have enough for a MetroCard,” he said.
McCrary’s Future Remains Uncertain
Just because McCrary managed to move out of his apartment doesn’t mean he has nowhere to go. The mentally ill trust fund kid doesn’t control his actual trust – his brother is in charge of his parents’ estate. He’s also unemployed and has had a tested history of struggling to find and hold jobs, though he seems perfectly content sleeping on the street.
McCrary’s future outside of his life in that Upper East Side one-bedroom is uncertain. His hoarding certainly isn’t cured even though he admitted that he felt better with the room cleaned. Will McCrary be able to turn his life around for good or will he fall back into the same old habits he had in his beloved one-bedroom?